Bathetic Phallacies

(assorted verses, some silly, some poignant, most tailing off or fizzling out or just pulling away the rug)

(last added to 20/8/16)

Bathetic Fallacy
Bolly for the Plebs
The English Patience
Au Louvre
Sonnet: Is it because you is old?
Jenga Renga & Venga Renga (Haiku sequences)
Sod this for a game of soldiers (not feeling well poem)
Distaff Discount
Of Human Cleavage
Struck Regularly
Blank Verse
you remind me of a man
Solo Performance
Selling Out
teacup storming
Sterner Stuff
This Sporting Life
It's All in the Execution
Divine Inspiration
Taking the Sleazy Way Out
The Life Poetic
It's All Downhill From Here
Self-Criticism II
annus horribilis (after Larkin)
Past Participant
Capriccio Toscana

Bathetic Fallacy

I have a muse perverse that spurs me on
(or would do were I not so sodding lazy).
Yesterday's intent, today is gone;
Last night's ideas, by morning far too hazy.

In all artistic fields invention thrives;
I'm filled with hope by each new inspiration,
convinced my work will touch a million lives ~
but something robs me of all motivation.

My labours left unfinished would amaze.
So what's the catch? I'll tell you what the catch is ~
I have a speech of fire that fain would blaze ~
if only I could find the bloody matches!


Bolly for the Plebs

I have no time for Nietzsche's view,
dismissive, as he watched
the herd within the human zoo:
'The hordes of the bungled and the botched.'

I'm more inclined to Darwin's take
on how traits get selected:
choosing a copyist's mistake
from the pool of the freakish and rejected.

The Superman is not the goal
of evolution's drive,
but a strategy, stuck with the rôle
of helping the bungled and botched survive.

The Alpha Male's job is to see
survival of the pack;
and, while he fights for mastery,
the hordes are shagging behind his back.

So don't, if blessed with special strengths,
just use them for yourselves;
the tall should go to any lengths
to help the short get things off shelves

Old Freddy got it very wrong
Ûbermensch, if they exist,
do so to help the herd along:
the hordes of the pickled and the pissed


The English Patience

They say it's fear that eats the soul:
not so. As far as I'm aware
there's nothing eats it quite so much
as what the Yanks call 'solitaire'
and we call 'patience'. Playing cards
dealt into rows by lonely fools,
only to pick them up again
according to some mindless rules.

And now computers make the job
of dealing out and building stacks
the work of mouse clicks, effortlessly
making up for what it lacks
in mental effort with an easy
repetition, sure to numb the brain:
The loser tries 'just one more deal'
The winner has to win again.


Au Louvre

It is more I am drawn to the paintings of the Northern folk,
Though Italian artists seem to steal the show;
It is more I am drawn to the paintings of the Northern folk,
Though Italian artists rule the roost, I know.
But my heart is moved more deeply by a small domestic scene
Or demons stretching bodies on some devilish machine
Or an isolated watermill beside a Flemish stream,
Where the evening swallows flicker to and fro,
To and fro:~
Oh my Ruisdael and my Breughel long ago!

(au Royal Scottish Academy — and apologies to Francis Thompson's At Lords)

Sonnet: Is it because you is old?

Andrew Graham-Dixon, Robert Hughes
(Sewell we can forget before we start)
are showing signs of altering their views
of what is good and bad in (modern) art.
Once champions of everything that's new
(because of or despite its power to shock?),
they now find old-time verities more true
and love the (bourgeois) stuff they used to mock.
But have our living artists lost their way?
Do older critics now see past the fuss?
Or have these pundits simply had their day?
And anyway, was it not ever thus:
the end of youth's iconoclastic rage ~
must we get more conservative with age?


Venga Renga

I feature, unseen,
in many a photograph.
Holiday snaps from

London, Edinburgh,
or days out who-knows-where.
I show up in the

laughing face, the broad
grin of the startled tourist,
suddenly amused

when I, behind the
unaware photographer,
pull a silly face.

Jenga Renga

I wrote my girlfriend
a little set of haiku
she wouldn't read it

I made my girlfriend
a plate of fresh sashimi
but she hates raw fish

I gave my girlfriend
a little book of koans
she hit me with it

I built my girlfriend
a tower of wooden blocks
she kicked it over


Sod this for a game of soldiers

There was a king of Spain*, who said
¡Mi duele todo! ~ then dropped dead.
And now my aches and pains have sent
me some idea of what he meant.

Tendonitis, bunions, gout —
"these are the things I can do without".
To get them all is hardly fair —
give me a motor-driven chair
(If I'm 'on my last legs', I'd say
'I don't want legs ~ take these away!'):
this boy would race, make no mistake —
but that my wrists and fingers ache.
And tennis elbow?! That's a joke —
it's ten years since I played a stroke!
With thumbs both sore from carving wood —
perhaps that chair would do no good.

My neck feels stiff, my spine goes click,
I spend the whole day feeling sick.
A four-year constant stomach ache —
far worse in bed — keeps me awake.
Oh, Life! I need no more shit from ya
to add to my innate insomnia.
I wake at five — that's far too soon —
so sleep through to the afternoon;
and then 'upon my couch I lie' —
bravely to stay awake I try,
till, dropping tired, to bed I slink —
and find I cannot sleep a wink.

The chest pains and the weariness —
my body's just a ruddy mess!
And now a sore throat, tickly cough,
that catches as I'm dozing off,
at least makes other people happy —
I talk less when I'm hoarse and crappy.

And tiredness makes the migraines worse —
these auras are an artist's curse:
a beauteous nude in front of me —
and twinkly lights are all I see.

Lest I should think there's something missing —
welcome the joys of frequent pissing.
Both heart and body out of luck —
I'm 'not long for this world' — thank fuck!


(*Carlos II: died in 1700 saying 'it hurts everywhere!' and made way for the War of the Spanish Succession)

Distaff Discount

(some ragged butterflies)

Kitty Marlow          will not come
to a violent end      in a little room
above a pub. She will
not emulate      her namesake
in notoriety         or creativity

Dilly Thomas          will not be held
green or dying      as she sings
(there are no chains)
She need not      rage against
the dying         of her light

Samantha Beckett          will never rock
herself quiet      at her window;
and any stain she leaves
upon the silence      will easily
be wiped away          with a damp cloth.


Of Human Cleavage: from the Song of Sillyman

to an unknown researcher in the National Library of Scotland

Thy head bendeth over thy desk
as thou makest notes with thy pencil
Thy face is as a mystery unto me
as thou sittest below me in the Temple of Books
and playeth with thy hair in thy concentration.
For yea, though I stare into the Valley of the Shadow,
I reach for words that will not come to mind,
nor will my book increase by but one sentence;
the beauty of thy flesh comforteth me.
I trust thy work procedeth well
while I can only pen this silly verse.


Struck regularly

It's strange just how potent cheap music can be
(As Mr N Coward once noted)
It's a question that fascinates little ol' me
And to which quite some thought I've devoted

How does schmaltz make us cry or a tune make us glow,
Or give rise to emotion unbidden?
Poppy stuff makes us feel what we already know
(While great art shows us things that were hidden)

I revel in each ~ they both have their place
I can't stand intellectual snobbery
But to squeeze 'grown-up' music out of the race
Is a worse form of cultural robbery

Since the 60's it seems that our minds have got jammed
In a mindset I'd call adolescent
But as I like Mahler as well as the Damned
The effect can be quite effervescent

We treat posturing stars like the Celts treated bards:
Seek their comments on every damn thing,
While clichés we'd laugh at in Valentines cards
We call 'so true' if written by Sting

Oh don't get me wrong, I love all of that shit
(Especially young Mr Cocker)
But if you attach great importance to it
Well, you're totally off-of your rocker!


Blank Verse

1. Ain't Got That Swing

Nihilism has such a poor reputation:
the thought that there's nothing behind the Creation;
no reason to be here, no ultimate goal,
no torment (or bliss) for no immortal soul;
no point to your actions ~ but none to your woes,
so no reason to hate or wish ill for your foes.

No gods and no monsters, no lingering doubt
simply means that there's nothing to worry about.


2. An Easy Mistake to Make

You seem to have no basis for your ethics:
no moral underpinning, no reason to be 'good':
if ev'rybody shared your views, what then?

Indeed, I see no 'higher power',
no destiny, no plan, no grand design —
but can't invent one just to satisfy
some need to see the universe as 'nice'
or justify imposing laws and 'standards'
even if ev'rybody else agreed.
Our evolution and our fundamental nature
seem adequate to do the job without
the need for any outside help at all.

And so, while 'goodness' just seems 'good' to me,
I also see no reason to be 'bad';
from where I stand it just seems too much effort
to get folk's backs up for some fleeting gain

Anyway, the day when ev'rybody shares a single view:
on any bloody thing — surely that's the day the World will end!


You remind me of a man...

It's a poem.
You know it's a poem
'cause the writing never
quite makes it
to the far side of
the page.

But why does the
amateur word-
smith assume this
need to break
(as if 'twere just the breaks
that make it poetry)
up lines after every
few words? And in the odd-
est places in
the sense, ir-
respective of
any rhythm or

I like Whitman, me. Lines that roll on like the unending oceans,
Borne along by their own craggy internal rhythms and forms;
Lines, indomitable, that a man can get lost in, exploring ideas, ranging free,
Working out and searching, then working out anew, not unlike myself,
Seeking all their numinous destinies: rambling; never getting anywhere.



Old soldiers sit in tidy rows
on benches made for lighter men,
ogling the thighs of passing girls.
What? Cycling for pleasure?
Resistance to a cheaper way of life?
Let's hear no more of ancient battles
won or lost by guile or force or luck.
Or amatory conquests, fortunes made

from shrewd investments — we don't give a fuck!
Give us a simple tale of love at leisure;
of diving in some tropic sea for pearls.
Remind us how that same old story goes
when freed from obligations born of strife
It isn't only babies who like rattles;
it isn't only snakes that seek the shade —
oh, please don't make me tell you this again.


Dai Lowe and Friends (solo performance)

Are you doing a show? people often enquire
As I stroll down the Mile in some garish attire
Or stand at the bar like the brightest of sparks
Making ev'ryone laugh at my comic remarks.

I have gags, songs and anecdotes, some little wit,
But perform them to order? That's heavier shit.
I don't think I could, as a matter of fact,
Stand up ev'ry night and repeat the same act.

I've known any number of talented guys
Who can raise gales of laughter or gasps of surprise
In a pub or an office, far better than I —
But put us on stage and we'd probably die.

As it is, if I'm being flamboyant or loud
Just depends on my mood — or that of the crowd;
And then, if I feel I'm beginning to bore
I can shut up and let someone else have the floor.*

If I choose to act flashy with tiresome persistence,
It's a way to embrace and enhance our existence.
Life is a performance, sir, didn't you know?
Why spoil it by pausing to put on a show?


*OK, this is poetic licence!


With a wee silver hook in each side of my mouth,
a steel spring round the back of my head
I can make myself smile and seem friendly to all
though deep down in my soul I am dead

Feb 2011


1 Large Door

I remember being hassled by a young lass on O'Connel Street
'Today's my first communion and the fam'ly has no money.'
And by God, some five years later, I recognised her once again;
impervious to the traffic, she held out her polystyrene cup
right underneath my nose and ——are ye tryin' to get us killed?

In Paris in the boulevards and bowels of Le Metro
the shabby beggars everywhere gave pause for heavy thought.
But at least, I gladly told myself, we have so few in Britain
No socialistic paradise but few beggars on the streets —
but then Maggie came to power and overnight corrected everything


2 big issue small change

on more and more street corners
outside stations
and shops

a muttered
sorry pal
averted eyes

no matter why
or education

either way
a stark reminder
that all
is far from well


Selling Out

State of Israel and inheritors of Kafka's writing at loggerheads over the papers he wanted destroyed

What is literary value?
I’ve a new idea to sell you
and it’s one that may astound:
selling Kafka by the pound.

Max Brod’s secretary’s daughters
told the court and news reporters
of a concept quite profound:
selling Kafka by the pound.

   Long-lost writings now returning;
   all those works he wanted burning;
   now claimed by the state of Israel
   or ladies who would put them on sale

no longer seen as Czech or German
or just the right of every human,
what’s that unappealing sound?
Selling Kafka by the pound!


teacup storming

Retreating from the tacky maelstrom:
breath of rainbows, forced and spry.
The herring-glass betrays decisions ~
every question answered, “why?”

Selected shapes, inflected meanings,
short of stature, long in tooth:
not for nothing, your great skill at
excavating hopeless youth.

Reading from a safer distance,
charming snakes of sickly hue;
granite-chipping sandwich makers ~
what have they to offer you?

Sell yourself in online auctions:
hard of hearing, quelque chose,
let the sleeping child dream on.
Despite yourself, misplace your nose.


Sterner Stuff

Before I die
I’d rather like to try
at least one game,
one frame of nine ball pool.
The rules I know
but lack the nerve
to swerve by any hall
where balls are not just yellow,
red and black
or lack the very
necessary numbering.

A time there was
I really longed to play
some day a set or so,
have a go at real tennis.
To many boring,
the scoring so abstruse;
of use only to the polo set,
and yet to me more tactical
and practical
for the less fit
the shit and lumbering.

Oh yes of course,
I also did desire,
aspire to travel,
unravel great mysteries;
write histories and paint
without restraint great masterpieces.
But disaster in the only real
(I feel) ambition worth a toss,
the loss of love
leaves lesser-burning
yearnings dead or slumbering.



Don’t read me wrong.
This robe in which I wrap myself
is gathered round a weeping sore;
elsewhere conceals a host of scars
unsightly markings of a sorry history

Its velvet folds, exquisite trim,
more closely studied, turn themselves
to sordid revelation, masks that tell
the tale of all that lies concealed.

All that is hidden is on the surface;
you just need to know how to look.



Write your story on the wind;
All your former loves rescind.
Your confession proudly shout:
‘Bless me Satan, I have sinned’.

As they drag you from the dock,
Lose the key and seal the lock,
No defense or alibi
‘It was pure delight to shock.’

Eating foie gras in your cell
Hear the tolling of the bell,
While the window bars break up
Your panoramic view of hell.

In the isolation ward
Where your dying hopes are stored
Gasp your last unheeded prayer:
‘Please don’t let me be ignored’.


This Sporting Life

We call it a game, which often confuses,
As there’s never a winner but plenty of losers
And everyone plays by the rules that he chooses
And acts as his own referee

The players not screaming are usually snoring
It’s rarely exciting but commonly boring
And no one has any idea of the scoring
Or when they should go in for tea

It may be a sport but it’s really not cricket
And few folks can stretch to the price of a ticket;
It’s hardly surprising that so few can stick it
So what is its lasting allure?

Ah, that is a thing that there’s no way of knowing
But life has a rather strange habit of showing
To get out of this race you just have to keep going —
You’re not sick but there isn’t a cure..

So before you complain that the strip doesn't suit you
Or wonder why no other side will recruit you —
Just be grateful that nobody's trying to shoot you
Or using your head as the ball

And don't give a damn if the crowd never shows up
Or the critics and fans turn their communal nose up —
Either way, when the referee finally blows up,
You're gonna be left with sod all!



Braise or grill or roast or fry,
All of us boil down to meat;
All that's born to live must die.

In a stew or in a pie,
Give yourself a tasty treat —
Braise or grill or roast or fry.

You're a veggie weirdo? Why?
Close your eyes and just repeat,
'All that's born to live must die.'

Your spirit's willing? Flesh? Oh, my!
Nothing else can taste as sweet —
Braise or grill or roast or fry.

Don't heave that disapproving sigh;
No creature can the reaper cheat —
All that's born to live must die

Still so many beasts to try
Still your life is incomplete;
Braise or grill or roast or fry —
All that's born to live must die


It's All in the Execution

I don't deny I should be shot,
but why at dawn? Why not
tout de suite, why this delay —
why not do it right away?

What point in timing my demise
to coincide with Helios' rise?
A random hour would do as well
To send my mortal soul to Hell

I've no desire to appeal
my sentence, and — oh please; get real —
sober reflection on my doom
will mean fuck all, once in the tomb.



Don't just kill alone. Make it
a public service and a group
activity. Recruit assassins; spread
the cost of axes; share the gains.

Fight fire with fire, target
network marketeers and chuggers
in the street. No jury would
convict the modern Robin Hood.

Release your inner psycho, go
to motivation meetings, form
a church of Kali's cohorts,
cleaners of the social sewers.

Each signed-up slaughterer, each
recruiter you recruit, takes you closer
to that commemorative axe, pearl-inlaid handle,
crafted and engraved in hand-wrought steel.

Ambition can't be made of stronger stuff.

April 2015

Divine Inspiration

Three engineering students, on a long, dark night of boozing,
Turned to questions of the Deity and philosophic musing.
"He's mechanical, like me," averred the first in all sincerity;
"Those tendons, bones and muscles, giving strength and yet dexterity."

"No, God's an engineer of the electronic kind —
"All that power of computation in the wiring of the mind —
"Those amazing nerve transmissions," the second student said.
The third just smiled a crooked smile, and slowly shook his head.

"He's a civil engineer," brought an incredulous reaction.
"I can prove it easily," he said, with smug self-satisfaction.
"Who but civil engineers would have the mindless imbecility
"To run a waste pipe through a recreational facility?"


Taking the Sleazy Way Out

The directors and staff of Indignitas
Welcome you one and all
To the formal launch of our Edinburgh branch
In this old and magnificent hall

Going peacefully, over in Zurich,
May suit those who shun razamatazz,
But an increasing number of Scots demand
To go out with a bit more pizazz.

Though all must end up laid in earth
In Greyfriars or Kensal Green,
Some think it quite nice to reach Paradise
By way of trampoline

That's why we offer you the chance
Of going out in style,
Like one last flight by catapult
From the Crags to the Royal Mile

So many folk live humdrum lives,
Of thrills and excitement free;
But at Indignitas, you at least have the chance
Of going disgracefully.


The Life Poetic

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day,
When boys on burning decks do stand and stare?
Or, gathering the lowing herds in May
From blue-remembered hills, sae fresh and fair?
The moving finger writes, and, having writ,
The Ancient Mariner stops one of three;
With darkness, and the death-hour rounding it,
If I should die, think only this of me:
I wandered ever lonely as a cloud,
But never really liked thee, Doctor Fell;
Then, taking this red gown, I made a shroud,
And loved, if not too wisely, much too well.
My heart aches with a drowsy, numbing pain;
Beneath Pont Mirabeau quiet flows the Seine...


It's All Downhill From Here

With gravity,
the wind at our backs,
we rolled on many miles,
free-wheeling through
a sunset landscape;
no further effort needed
until we reached the inn.

A roaring fire,
bowls of soup,
home-made and hearty,
the foaming ale
imparting inner
warmth and fellow feeling.

Then up the stairs —
the small but homely
room with fake-coal fire,
squashed-in en suite and MFI
four-poster bed.

Fatigue left loving
gentle, soft and short,
and, lying side
by side, aches


Self-Criticism II

It's risky, is self-deprecating verse:
It simply tempts the reader to reply,
'Oh no, it's not that bad, it's far far worse'

Be profligate with your invention's purse;
Be bold and brash with everything you try —
It's risky, is self-deprecating verse

Should this iamb be a spondee? "My scansion's leaking, nurse!
"I think it's just a stress mark in my eye."'
"Oh no, it's not that bad, it's far, far worse!"

"Your ode has maladies we can't reverse,
"And your poetic soul is doomed to die" —
It's risky, is self-deprecating verse

No sympathy it brings, more like a curse,
A grimace and a disapproving sigh —
"Oh no, it's not that bad, it's far, far worse"

Self doubt can make your writing its own hearse
Just keep it under cover, lest we cry,
"It's risky, is self-deprecating verse —
Oh no, it's not that bad — it's far, far worse!"


annus horribilis (after Larkin)

Sexual intercourse went wrong
in Nineteen Eighty-Four
(which for me was rather a bore)
when the AIDS virus came along,
just after the Falklands War

Before that everything had seemed
like folks were having a ball:
a lust-crazed free-for-all,
except for those like me, who dreamed
of getting laid at all

Then all at once the good times ceased;
the active took more care,
and though it wasn't fair,
my failures, due to risks increased,
seemed 'socially aware'

So that was when it all went wrong
in Nineteen Eighty-Four
(and still I couldn't score)
once the AIDS virus came along
just after the Falklands War

Past Participant

Grammatically speaking
        my gender is neuter.
Grammatically speaking
        my modifiers are misplaced
                (and dangling).
Grammatically speaking
        my clause is unconditional
Grammatically speaking
        my parallels are faulty.
Grammatically speaking
        my sentences run on
                (and on, and on …).
Grammatically speaking
        my parentheses are closed.
Grammatically speaking
        my past is perfect.

June 2016
Capriccio Toscana

So I'm sitting by the Arno, just licking a gelato,
After drinking too much rosso, rather late.
I could tell that I was pissed, 'cos there seemed to be a mist,
And the bloody Leaning Tower looked straight!

The lads on their Lambrettas, with their sexy principessas
Compared to English guys they seemed so good;
Shades and tee-shirts as a rule, look a hundred times more cool
Than a helmet and a parka ever could.

After that on our agenda was a visit to Firenze.
Or Florence, as we Brits say, don't ye know.
We thought David rather silly, six yards tall but tiny willy,
But we loved the Ponte Vecchio

Now I'd heard of Botticelli (I'd seen something on the telly)
And I'd tried to paint a copy of his work,
La Nascita di Venere, a naked bird with dead long hair, he
Stuck her on a shell at sea, the berk.

So we went to the Uffizi (back in those days it was easy),
To immerse ourselves in famous works of art.
Where are you now, Caravaggio? Forget the Michelangelo;
We sprinted through them like a band apart.

'Cos I'd saved most of my keenness for Sandro's Birth of Venus;
My heart beat faster as we reached the hall;
But it didn't look quite right, ten by eight, in black and white,
Stuck up next to Primavera, six feet tall!

To speak Italian I'm not able, so I couldn't read the label,
So the details of her absence were unclear;
But I got the basic meaning: she'd been carted off for cleaning,
And would not be back again that year

If there's a moral to this tale of a quattrocentro fail
(I'm sure that I can find one if I try),
It's, 'check with the gallery about the stuff you want to see,
'And never set your hopes too high.'

But we found a nice trattoria (with the details I won't bore yer)
And we drank and ate our pasta with a song.
I took the evening train for Pisa as a pretty cheery geezer,
'Cos you can't be sad in Italy for long!

Agosto 2016: a Silvia Labruzzo, con affetto